This year’s Florida women’s basketball team has experience. In fact, they only have one freshman, Laila Reynolds, on the roster, but then again, she was ranked top-20 in her recruiting class, so best believe she can really, really hoop. The squad’s sole rookie dropped 20 points against Florida A&M and recently posted 18 in a win against Georgia Tech. Oh, and her teammates Ra Shaya Kyle, Aliyah Matharu and Alberte Rimdal all scored double digits, too. Sheesh.
With a standout freshman already logging big-time minutes and a roster that’s equipped with five juniors and five seniors, plus French graduate student Kenza Salgues, who played at Miami and made her Gators debut earlier this season, it’s looking like this team will be holding its own in the SEC this year.
After finishing 19-15 last season and making the NCAA tournament in 2021-22, the Gators will look to improve upon a first-round exit to UCF. If they do, they’ll make history: the last time the Gators made it to the second round was in 2014, and they’ve yet to advance past the Elite Eight. Things are already looking up, though. With head coach Kelly Rae Finley at the helm, the Gators had their first 20-win season since 2015-16 under Finley’s guidance, going 21-11 in 2021-22.
They’ve also got SEC legend—and former SLAM cover star—Rhyne Howard on staff as an assistant coach and director of player personnel this year. The Atlanta Dream star also comes from Gator royalty. Her mom, Rhvonja, played for the team from 1987-91 (captain in ’90-91) and still holds multiple program records, including top-10 in career steals.
“I always knew at some point that I would have the connection back with this school, and just to be here and to be loved and to feel how much of a family it is already just confirmed all that,” Howard said in an official school press release.
The Gators are already off to a fantastic start; as we went to press, they were 6-2, their only losses coming from a combined 7 point differential. Their spark, as Kyle said after the team’s season opener, largely comes from sixth-year senior guard Zippy Broughton, who is back after being out for the past 20 months due to a shoulder injury. The former Rutgers transfer persevered through the rehab process and has returned as not only a pivotal scorer, but a leader.
“She brings a different kind of spark to our team,” said Kyle, via an article on FloridaGators.com.
Adds Coach Finley: “Her ability to fight through adversity when a lot of people might choose to hang it up…I’m just excited and happy she’s chosen our team to chase her dreams. She’s doing so fearlessly every day. It means a lot to our program that she is willing to have great determination to get back on the court.”
That spark is exactly what the Gators will need this season to take them on what could be a potentially deep postseason run.